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Grant extension pushes Chatham Steel project forward

It could mean the resurrection of a much-wanted economic project. Lawrence County Commissioners agreed in their regular Thursday meeting to sign the extension of CDBG funds for the Chatham Steel Corp. project for the western end of Lawrence County.

In a May 11 letter to the Office of Housing and Community Partnerships in Columbus, commission president Jason Stephens had asked for the extension.

“The national economic downturn has delayed this project, but Chatham Steel after much discussion appears to be proceeding with this project,” the letter stated. “The scope of the project has not changed and the use of the CDBG funds will remain as proposed. The design work for the rail/road work is near completion and we anticipate placing this project out to bid in the fall of 2010.”

With the bidding process so close, Stephens’ letter asked for a 12-month extension on the grant.

“I think basically with this project and we are seeing this throughout the state with all the business expansion a lot of businesses have delayed their investment process,” Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO, said. “It is an optimistic sign. I don’t want to be too optimistic, but it is a sign that hopefully the economy will rebound and these businesses will follow with their expansion.”

In August of 2008, Chatham, based in Savannah, Ga., announced it planned to build a facility on 12 acres along County Road 1 in Hamilton Township, near Rumpke recycling and Duke Energy. The product line at the site will include carbon steel structurals such as wide-flange beams, channels and tubing, as well as carbon, alloy and heat-treated plate. When the plant is in full operation, it is anticipated that there will be 50 plus full-time jobs there.

Commissioners also agreed to ask the county prosecutor if publishing the delinquent tax list online would fulfill the Ohio Revised Code statute that makes publication of the list mandatory. Earlier the commissioners had asked the prosecutor for an opinion on whether publication of the list was required.

Commissioner Doug Malone requested looking into Internet publication of the list in an effort to curb costs. Typically printing the list in newspapers costs the county about $20,000 a year.

“It is pretty expensive,” Malone said. “If we could get it on the Internet.”

Commissioners also approved the bid for replacing Bridge No. 2 on Big Branch Road that came in 15 percent under the county engineer’s estimate of $212,900. A contract will be awarded to U.S. Bridge of Cambridge, Ohio, for $178,200.

Big Branch Road is a main access for residents of the county driving to U.S. 52 and Huntington, W.Va.

“It definitely needs to be replaced”, said Stephens who noted that the work would cause the shutdown of that section of the road, which will be a major inconvenience for those in that area.

Partial funding is expected from a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission. Starting date will be after July 1 with completion mandated by Aug. 15.

Commissioners requested the prosecutor draw up a legal agreement between the commission and Vernon Collier on the removal of hay from the Lawrence County Airpark. For many decades Collier has cut hay at the airpark, but that came under fire two years ago when complaints were made to the commissioners that they were not taking any other bids. However, last year the only bid for the job came again from Collier for $1,251 for a single mowing and last month there were no bids received for the work.

The agreement will allow Collier to cut the hay in return for his supplying a dumpster at the airpark from his sanitation company.

In other action commissioners:

Received the May 15 report from the county dog warden that during that week 60 dogs were seized; 52 destroyed; seven sold and five reclaimed.

Approved the renewal of the county’s vision insurance with VSP insurance with a $25 copay.

Approved the county handling building inspections for the village of Chesapeake.

Accepted the lowest bid for child support legal services from McCown, Fisher and Gleichauf at $90 an hour.

Accepted the lowest bid for HVAC services for the Department of Job and Family Services from Casto Technical for $16,240 a year.